By Ruzanna Stepanian and Ruzanna Khachatrian
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian said on Monday that his government is striving to keep Armenia unaffected by the wave of successful anti-government uprisings across the former Soviet and is confident that it can weather the storm.
“We are trying to make sure that the revolutionary wave doesn’t reach us,” Markarian told RFE/RL, reacting to last week’s dramatic ouster of Kyrgyzstan’s longtime autocratic president, Askar Akayev.
The events in Kyrgyzstan followed what is now a familiar pattern, with a reputedly rigged election followed by opposition demonstrations culminating in regime change. The previous governments of Georgia and Ukraine were toppled in November 2003 and December 2004 respectively under similar circumstances.
Markarian claimed that Armenia, where vote falsifications have also been a serious problem since independence, is in line for such a revolution. “The situation in Armenia is not like that in neighboring countries or Central Asian republics,” he said. “Things will happen here in a legal and timely war, [as a result of] parliamentary and presidential elections.
“In my view, democracy is developing in our country. Of course, not everything is all right. But the difference is huge. We have no problems with the economy.”
“So I don’t see grounds for the people to get out, change government and then go on a rampage,” Markarian added.
The Armenian opposition, which refuses to recognize the legitimacy of President Robert Kocharian’s administration, already tried last spring to replicate Georgia’s spectacular “rose revolution.” However, its campaign of anti-government street protests met with a much harsher government response and eventually fizzled out. Still, the success of the November “orange revolution” in Ukraine and the anti-Akayev revolt in Kyrgyzstan could tempt opposition leaders to make another push for power this year.
“The authorities must draw lessons from the events [in Kyrgyzstan],” Victor Dallakian, a leader of the opposition Artarutyun alliance, warned on Friday. “Armenia could still have a precedent of regime change through a popular movement.”
But representatives of Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK) and one of its two coalition partners downplayed the Kyrgyz uprising, accentuating on violence and looting that marred it. “What is happening in Kyrgyzstan is far from being a revolution,” said Levon Mkrtchian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun).
The third party represented in Markarian’s cabinet, Orinats Yerkir, is less categorical. “Every country has its course of development,” one of its leaders, Mher Shahgeldian, told reporters.
Orinats Yerkir raised the HHK and Dashnaktsutyun eyebrows last week by calling for multi-party “consultations” on ways of speeding up Armenia’s democratization and, in particular, ensuring the freedom and fairness of local elections scheduled for October. Its coalition partners criticized the initiative, saying that the party led by parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian should have consulted with them beforehand.
Orinats Yerkir is now understood to be ready to hold separate talks with the opposition.